Les Misérables Les Misérables discussion

Eponine vs Cosette?

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Okay, time for the classic question. Who do you like better/who deserves the most respect? I know that Cosette and Eponine are portrayed quite differently in the musicals than from the books, and I also know that Cosette hardly ever is able to be interesting because she lives a shielded life.

I also know that Eponine actually is slightly selfish in the book compared to the musical. And I know she isn't half as pretty or feminine in the book. But I also like her better than Cosette. Of course, Cosette's life is sad, and I DO like her. But she seems like a spoiled brat after a while. And Marius's obsession over her makes me cringe in disgust.

I just want to know what you think? And yes, I know that they are foils of each other and have individual good and bad points. But considering that they are foils, it's interesting to know what you guys think. :D

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I know! Marius USED to be a crush of mine, lol. That was when all I knew of Les Mis were the movie/musical versions. Once I read the book, I felt as if he was the biggest jerk ever in the history of literature. He was most certainly not worth Eponine's death, or his friends' for that matter.

It pained me that almost immediately after she died he went straight to Cosette's letter. Sure, there was the kiss.... but I felt it was never all that sincere.

message 3: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 26, 2013 04:02PM) (new)

True. He represents how imperfect but lovable the human race can be. He WAS pretty sweet at certain parts of the novel. I guess it's a bit of an exaggeration on my part of him being the biggest jerk in lit., but when I was reading the book Les Mis was all that I thought of, so then it didn't really matter that he couldn't compare to Miraz or other book characters. :D At that point in my life, Les Mis was practically my whole world. LOL.

As for the dreaminess, I totally agree. He is truly a hopeless romantic....

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

I guess one could give him credit in that he was really very young and just getting into society and what the world was about. He didn't have the full protection of a family, though he had loving relatives.

And as a scholar he spent more than half of his time reading books. I'll give him that.....

message 5: by Monique (new) - added it

Monique Eponine, hands down. She has more depth as a character than Cosette.

Marius is exactly as he is - a spoiled rich boy who played at being the revolutionary. He may have thought he believed in the ideals of his "cause", but when push came to shove, they were less important than his comfortable life. He can afford to be the dreamy idealist, after all.

Carina From the book I liked Eponine and Cosette equally, but from the musical version Eponine is my favourite hands down. I need to re-read this again having seen the musical and see if it effects how I viewed the characters.

Re the comments about Marius, tbh in both versions I didn't care if he lived or died - again though he was made more likeable in the musical adaptation.

message 7: by Monique (new) - added it

Monique Every character is meta. They all stand for/as something. It was a social commentary so in a way, each character represented some aspect of society.

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Christiann wrote: "Sometimes I wonder who Victor Hugo's favorite character in the book was. Which did he like most or agree with most or enjoy writing about most?

I don't think it was Eponine, unfortunately. The wa..."

I think Hugo described Cosette in such a way because he was likening her to his first wife and himself to Marius. He was madly in love with Adele (his wife) and thought her so very beautiful. The marriage didn't work out in the end, but obviously Hugo still remembered her in a dreamy light.

Yeah, the end was pretty good, although I couldn't really forgive Hugo for what he did to some of the characters.

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

I felt the exact same way. :(

message 10: by Autumn (new) - added it

Autumn I haven't read the book yet (it's on my kindle waiting for me) but musical wise I love Eponine, she is my favorite character (and not just because she sings "On My Own") :)

Gracie Commia I like Eponine better in both the musical and the book. With the book its pretty close though...cosette isnt as annoying as in the musical.

Belleza I didn't watch the musical, but I think that Eponine deserves more respect. She is not only as bold as a man (something quite rare in many books), but also a real and passionated lover.
She was the caracter who impressed me most.

ps: sorry for my bad English.

Ashley Clark Actually I quite like the idea of this discussion. Personally Marius to me is kind of like Cosette's father, which he is supposed to be since its a reflection on how Fantine and Cosette live similar lives in a way, but a better man than her father was (biological not Valjean) to the situation. You see both were students and essentially rebels for a cause in their times but one of them decided to step up and take responciblity while the other one went off to do what his parents wanted like a good little boy.
Eponine and Cosette are two of my favorite characters, besides Fantine of course, throughout the whole novel since they were the ones i could most relate to. Although they have personalities that are distinct theie lives had a sort of kinship in a way. they both fell in love with the same guy, had to deal with the Thendiars, struggled with poverty and several other things that i cant remember. Overall Eponine has the stronger character if you compare it to Cosette's and her situations that she goes through throughout the novel make her a very sympathetic character and earns our affection while through most of the novel we still think of cosette as that litle girl at the inn- lets be honest about that- so we like her but she doesnt earn as much sympathy from us once Valjean resues her from her condition. Personally i think Eponine is the stronger of the two but Cosette is my favorite of the two for the reason that she went from bad to good conditions instead of good to bad conditions.

message 14: by Emma (new) - added it

Emma Eponine. She was far stronger and braver than Cosette.

message 15: by Jack (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jack Shaw I agree, Eponine is stronger and braver, while Cosette is the dainty lady of the day. Very few women of their circumstance made a success of themselves unless a wealthy man came along. Still, we do have a feeling for those who struggle, but seem good inside. Character made the person, not wealth; however, we are entitled one mistake or two along the way

Akwany Eponine for sure. I feel she had so much more depth(?) than Cosette. I also found that Eponine was far stronger physically and psychologically. But surely Eponine would be used to being let down constantly because that had been her entire life. But Cosette was far too shielded, and so I think she was so determined to escape which I admired that determination so much. I guess that I really did love both of them but I felt sympathetic for Eponine but empathetic for Cosette.

Claude I am not sure of the need to pit Eponine and Cosette
against each other. Both were strong female roles in difficult circumstances. I for one liked both girls.
Marius had the good fortune to be loved by each.
Great book btw

message 18: by Cat (new) - added it

Cat As a character in the novel and the musical, Eponine has a far more interesting storyline, background, and demise. She spends her whole life in (basically) a whore house disguised as a "motel." Then, she meets the LOVE of her LIFE, and he never pays her an ounce of attention. But yet, she dies trying to protect him. While Cosette is mistreated for a small portion of her life, she is then taken away by Jean Valjean and lives a marvelous life, also meeting her true love, marrying him, and living the rest of her life in happiness.

Then again, Cosette is the basis of the story. Everything in Les Miserables is set to cause and effect, and every single lead, goes back to the little child we fell in love with after she was sent into the cold, dark woods.

With this, I leave you with my opinion and answer to the topic's question. Both. Both Eponine and Cosette were amazingly written and played characters. Both. Both are important to the storyline, and both. Both. Both are magnificent, brilliant, fantastic characters who deserve more attention from the readers who are on the opposite side of the argument.

Good day.

Amanda Neiley Cosette, simply because Eponine is deceptive and immoral. I know that is because she was raised by deceptive and immoral parents, but plenty of characters in this novel rise above how they were brought up.

message 20: by Elizabethk (new)

Elizabethk I defiantly can't decide who I like better

Lauren Smith Elizabethk wrote: "I defiantly can't decide who I like better"


Mohamad Almokhllati Of course Eponine. She is a heroic figure an a true lover. Wheras Cosette is protected and taken care of through out the novel except her for her childhodd. Eponine is a martyr . She is very empowering. Her death is also an epic.

message 23: by Alye (new)

Alye I think from a modern perspective that Eponine is the better character. Cosette is a bland character. She is passive with respect to the men in her life, and obedient to a fault even when such subservience makes her unhappy. Cosette continually lets life happen to her whereas Eponine (at least at the end) takes control of hers. She fights for what she wants. She knows how to manipulate people and situations to her own ends, but she does so without malice.

Also does anyone else see the similarities between Cosette and Bella Swan?

message 24: by Emily (last edited Nov 01, 2013 08:43AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emily Does anyone else on here remember an essential fact - that Eponine tries to have Marius killed at the barricade with her so that they could die together? That's certainly not the mark of a strong independent woman that people on this thread seem to think she is. She's also completely reliant on her horrible father. Eponine is a character that deserves our pity and she's supposed to represent redemption (in her dying speech), but she's far too dark and destructive, where Cosette is supposed to represent light and purity. There's definitely a culture gap with how we feel about Cosette character as written now as apposed to 1865, she's not the heroine of modern times, but I think that Marius made the right choice. After all, isn't it better to have Valjean as an inlaw, even with Marius's coldness toward him at first, than Mr. Thénardier?

Heather James I agree with the two posters above that Cosette's character is likely to be less appealing to modern readers than she might have been to the book's original audience. She is dull and idealistic. It's easier to have an emotional response to Eponine - positive or negative. I have always preferred Eponine, in the musical, book and film. I love that she is flawed and makes mistakes, but also that she ultimately tries to make up for them by sacrificing herself.

The character I really, really, really dislike is Marius. He's probably my most hated character in a book, ever. I always thought he was a bit weak in the musical, but when I read the novel I detested him - especially when Eponine dies. Barely a page passes before he is back to Cosette. If I could go back in time, I would love to ask Hugo what he was thinking when he wrote Marius...

Talitha Eponine--she proves that it is not beauty or circumstances that make a person, it is their heart. I like her sweetness towards Marius, even when she knows he loves Cosette. And though she does bring Marius to the barricade in order for them to die together, in the end she saves his life.

Paige Mooney *~Emo: {Evanna} :Goth~* wrote: "As a character in the novel and the musical, Eponine has a far more interesting storyline, background, and demise. She spends her whole life in (basically) a whore house disguised as a "motel." The..."

I was going to make a comment to this discussion, but Evanna could not have said it better.

Jessica Eponine. Cosette may have had a rough childhood, but she got it good when she got Jean Valjean, and she ended up with Marius. Eponine is the character we can all relate to, since she didn't get the man she loved. In my opinion, she showed true love because she gave her LIFE for Marius. Cosette just laid eyes on him and instantly thought she was in love.

message 29: by Ann (new) - rated it 3 stars


'nuff said :)

message 30: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin Wenham Cosette is my ultimate favourite in the novel. She is kind despite her upbringing, not matter how traumatic it started and how fortunate it was later on. I think she symbolises hope and she made everyone try their best. Fantine did everything she could for Cosette, Valjean raised her.

Not that I don't like Eponine as a character I do. I find that she was selfish a lot of the time, especially when it came to Marius, but I think this is down to her naivety more than anything. She is a criminal yes, but the so is Valjean. I liked that she represented redemption, as someone mentioned above. She is a much darker character and I understand why modern readers find her more interesting. Do you now think that if the book was written now, she would be the main character? I certainly do.

My personal preference is Cosette, simply because she is a happier character than Eponine.

Carol Apple I love Les Miserables and have my personal favorite characters, but before this I have honestly have never thought about which of these two characters I liked better. I have to say I sympathize with Eponine more than Cosette. It's the least I can do considering she gives her life for the guy Cosette gets to live with happily ever after.

message 32: by Gothicromantic (last edited Jan 08, 2014 03:13AM) (new)

Gothicromantic Cosette is not so much a young girl than an idea: pure, beautiful, rises above her horrible suffering in the hands of Thénardiers - including darling Éponine - and gets a happy ending.
Éponine is... well, as a child she is a bully, but as an adolescent she is very tragic in all of her selfishness.

Cas ❦ Cosette. Eponine was a self-righteous idiot.

message 34: by Gothicromantic (new)

Gothicromantic I think one problem with Cosette is that she is told to be pure female ideal but she seems... careless about Valjean´s love. We are just TOLD how wonderful she is.

mademoiselle:) I love them both. But Eponine seems more personable, like more realistic and her tragedies are so emotional and draw in so well.

message 36: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Well I absolutely love Eponine for being strong and going into the revolution, she has so much more depth than Cosette's character. And totally get the 'wants to die with Marius' thing, and then realizes her mistake and gives him the letter, showing how much she truly did love Marius. She has a horrible life with the Thenardiers, and she just deserves someone to love her back I think, and you can tell that she stopped being in a loving family soon after Cosette was taken, so much of her life was suffering.
But, I cannot hate Cosette for having a better liferlife, that wasn't her fault that ValJean fortunately tok her and provided her with a good life, far better than Eponine's, and no one can blame her for that. Bu tI think it's the fact that we hear so much about how perfect Cosette is, we want Marius to choose the loving underdog... Eponine.
In my opinion, I do wish Marius chose Eponine, and in the musical it's apparent he just liek Cosette's face because he never even talked to her, while Eponine is his best friend who truly loves him for him. WHICH BOTHERED ME SO MUCH,HOW DUMB ARE YOU MUSICAL MARIUS???
Anyway, I like how he truly cared for her in the movie though.
I think Eponine deserved someone she loved to love her back, someone like Enjolras,someone with an actual personality and a good person (book Marius rubbed me the wrong way, and musical Marius fell in love with a face so .. ).
Oh, imagine that Eponine/Enjolras, wouldn't that be an epic love story?I just don't like how perfect Cosette is and it makes me root for passionate Eponine, but when it really comes down too it Marius deserves someone like Cosette because Eponine deserves someone SO MUCH MORE than Marius. But I still would have liked her to get the one she was truly in love with, it would have made my heart fill with happiness..oh yeah and Cosette could go with anyone else, her character bored me with her perfectness.
BUT Then again, I like that Eponine doesn't end up happy because not all books can end with a happy endings and it makes the book more tragic/real.

Yeah so many conflicting opinions, I don't know.

message 37: by Leah (new) - rated it 5 stars

Leah Griffith Lauren wrote: "Elizabethk wrote: "I defiantly can't decide who I like better"


I agree also. I don't think it's necessary to compare. They were different characters. I like each of them for different reasons.

I believe Cosette represent Valjean's attempt at self redemption—she is his proof that he is a good man, although he was inadvertently responsible for Cosette's mother's downfall and her eventual death, by allowing Fantine to be fired.

Personally, I can relate to most of the characters. I absolutely love the story.

Genevieve Renee Eponine scares me a little. The only time I enjoy her is when she faces down her father's gang. Every other time she's just stalking Marius. She makes me sad, because going from a spoiled brat to an abused gamine would definitely have an effect on a young girl's psyche, but unlike many other girls, I didn't identify with her.

Cosette on the other hand, is very nice. He calls her brave and wil at heart, and it's certainly true she isn't afraid of new things, which is worthy of applause because of her tortured childhood. She seems to have looked ahead. But really, they are both about fifteen, maybe sixteen, and have (or would have had) growing and changing to do. Eponine inspires me; Cosette soothes me. I like that when she didn't see Marius for the longest time, she put him out of her mind. When he came back, she spoke to him and spent time with him, but she didn't get depressed when she stopped seeing him.

message 39: by Gothicromantic (new)

Gothicromantic I never identified with Eponine. either. Actually, at first I hated her, because she bullied Cosette and when Cosette got some happiness she was called as "stealing slut" by some young girls.

Tothebarricade I know Cosette had a rotten childhood, and Hugo states that she was more of a lark then a dove and was brave, but Éponine has a lot more trouble in her life and SAVES MARIUS' LIFE.

message 41: by [deleted user] (new)

Sorry, this is going to be long, I just have a lot of feelings on this subject (tl;dr- Cosette is awesome, we can't blame Eponine but she just ain't right for Marius, they were written that way on purpose bc VH LOVES symbolism)

I don't think Eponine would have done any good to Marius. VH says, 'Love has no middle term; either it destroys, or it saves...Of all the things God has made, the human heart is the one that sheds most light, and alas! most night.'

C+E are contrasting characters, I think Hugo uses them to truly underline the awful effects of poverty or 'la misère'. As they spend their childhoods together, and are reunited ten(?) years later in love with the same man, we can't help but compare them. Cosette is someone who has faced incredible trauma - she is used as a slave and abused horribly during her childhood.She was taken away from the situation, cared for, and educated. She is extremely selfless, generous, and kind for a teenage girl (as well as, yes, attractive) . The way she tries her best to hide her incredible sadness from her father so as not to worry him is an example of this. ¨

Eponine, in contrast, was loved and coddled as a child, but fell into poverty and, with that, crime. She is a symbol of the degradation (of character? Of morals? Of humanity?)caused by poverty. Whilst I don't think VH is blaming her for her illegal actions, “If the soul is left in darkness sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.” I don't think she would be a potential love interest for Marius. She's very selfish. guys, she tries to KILL him, she's not exactly got his best interests at heart. Flipping the situation round, Cosette would never dream of harming Marius, even if (when) she thinks she cannot have him. Cosette spends the time he's recovering from the barricade making him bandages and crying. It is easy to imagine that she spends their married life helping him through the trauma of the barricade. Hers is the kind of love that illuminates, that saves; Eponine's love made her attempt to kill Marius. It is the kind of love that destroys. I think Hugo here is hinting that one of the effects of extreme poverty, and the resulting desperation and degradation, is the inability to save with love, rather than destroy (not entirely sure bout this one bc Fantine tho so idk)

Another thing - I agree that Cosette isn't developed properly in the musical, and that can make her seem shallow, and I think that is the reason for most of the speculation on the C vs E. But in the book, Cosette is a very well drawn out character. She is clever and brave in more subtle ways than Eponine - looking after her father, brushing off the sadness of (temporarily, but she didn't know that) losing Marius, and mentally dealing with her childhood in a way that didn't make her cruel and distrustful, but generous and kind.
'Besides, Cosette was not by nature easily frightened. There was in her veins the blood of the bohemian and the adventurer who goes about barefoot. As you’ll recall, she was more of a lark than a dove. In her heart of hearts, she was wild and brave.'
Overall, it is repeatedly stressed that she is fundamentally good.
'Everything about Cosette epitomized naïveté, ingenuousness, transparency, purity, candor, radiance. You could have described Cosette as cloudless. She had the effect of spring or first light on whoever saw her.'

And lastly, it kind of bothers me when people say there's no need to compare Cosette and Eponine. They're foils; they're supposed to be compared, that's the point of a foil! I think we should examine the relationships they have with Marius, though, instead of fantasising about giving them different ones. VH wrote the relationships like that for a reason, he knows what he's doing.

message 42: by Clara (new)

Clara Emily wrote: "Does anyone else on here remember an essential fact - that Eponine tries to have Marius killed at the barricade with her so that they could die together? That's certainly not the mark of a strong i..."

"Does anyone else on here remember an essential fact - that Eponine tries to have Marius killed at the barricade with her so that they could die together? That's certainly not the mark of a strong independent woman that people on this thread seem to think she is. She's also completely reliant on her horrible father. Eponine is a character that deserves our pity and she's supposed to represent redemption (in her dying speech), but she's far too dark and destructive, where Cosette is supposed to represent light and purity. There's definitely a culture gap with how we feel about Cosette character as written now as apposed to 1865, she's not the heroine of modern times, but I think that Marius made the right choice. After all, isn't it better to have Valjean as an inlaw, even with Marius's coldness toward him at first, than Mr. Thénardier?" -Emily

Hi there :) Yeah, a lot of people do miss out that 'trying to kill Marius' part, but I guess the only thing to be said about that is that the musical altered that part, so if we go by the musical, then that never happened.

I guess the reason many people, including myself, like her a lot is because she is pretty strong, in her own crazy way. I have to argue with the fact that she's completely reliant on her father, though. She did go against her father when he and his accomplices tried to rob Cosette's house and I think that does take a lot of courage, no matter how crazy she was. And it shows that she's not afraid to go against her father and she's not all-reliant on him. After all, if her father had succeeded in robbing the house, they would have got more money.

And I guess, I have to agree with you in a way about the 'trying to have Marius killed at the barricade with her so that they could die together' and how that's not really characteristic of a strong person. I do agree that it doesn't seem strong that she would choose to 'kill' her loved one since he didn't want to be with her. But I think that that's redeemed by the fact that she saved Marius. Although she said that she just wanted to die before him, I still think that that's a very strong thing to do. After all, actions speak louder than words sometimes. And I think that this is one example of such an instance.

I think the problem with Eponine is that she loved too much and she didn't know what to do with that emotion. I think that's partly why a lot of people also like her. Because they see themselves in her - unloved and totally desperate to be loved, even to the point of destruction.

I also have to disagree with you on the part that 'she's supposed to represent redemption (in her dying speech), but she's far too dark and destructive'. I guess that's what redemption means? I'm not saying she's not dark and destructive because the fact remains that she totally is, but she did a lot of redeeming deeds too and that makes her likeable in my eyes. She's not just totally good or evil, totally dark or pure. She's a mix of both, with probably a bit more in the dark side. That's why I like her better than Cosette. You're right, Cosette does represent light and purity, but I think a bit too much. I like characters that have both sides to them - destructive and pure - rather than just one. Because it reminds me of people. We all do bad things and good things, just maybe a bit more bad or good deeds. So, that's why I like Eponine better, because she's more grey and unpredictable than Cosette's light.

On the point of Marius, I do believe that he's be better off with Cosette, as much as I like Eponine much more than Cosette. Judging by Marius's character, I think that he'd like a girl like Cosette much more than a girl like Eponine and I don't really think he's really all that suited for Eponine. I don't know if he 'made the right choice' but I do think he'd be happier with a gentler girl like Cosette rather than a more feisty girl like Eponine.

On a side note, I don't really think that the in-laws should matter in loving someone. If Marius only chose Cosette because her father was better than Eponine's, I really pity both Cosette and Eponine for falling for such a man.

Gisela Hafezparast Jack wrote: "I agree, Eponine is stronger and braver, while Cosette is the dainty lady of the day. Very few women of their circumstance made a success of themselves unless a wealthy man came along. Still, we do..."

Totally agree. Eponine for me as I can identify with her most. However, I have to put in a plea for Cosette, who didn't exactly have it easy herself at the beginning and her protected upbringing, whilst well-meant is very unlikely to make her a thinker and fighter like Eponine had to survive.

message 44: by Sadeel (last edited Sep 22, 2014 07:59AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sadeel Nasarat Eponine ,, she touched me .. much true as a person and much stronger than cosette
Add to that she always felt lost she had Abad mother and father a bad life non to hold her hand but she helped Marius to get to cosette
she made a Sacrifice and let me say Sacrifice always win !

message 45: by Kirsi (new)

Kirsi Cosette is not a young girl but an Romantic ideal: pure, clean, angelic, compared to flowers and dawn... Éponine is a real young girl and more easy to be related. I never related to her, but many young girls do.

message 46: by WISHi (last edited Jan 02, 2015 02:46PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

WISHi KNEW2 As children, I wouldn't hesitate to say Cosette.
However, as adults I can't help but see Cosette as rather weak, and apparently faultless. Whereas Eponine is strong and clever.

I think I have to go with Eponine.

Steve Eponine all the way. If Les Mis was written today, she would be the lover scorned ala Glen Close in Fatal Attraction. But Eponine rose above that and showed what love really is.

message 48: by Mark (new)

Mark It's the one bogey the writers of the musical (which I admit I haven't read the book), had, in that they wrote the Eponine has an awesome character and Cosette as a bit of a privileged prat. They solve it because Marius is such a prat as well, and couldn't handle Eponine.

message 49: by Katinka (last edited Jul 14, 2015 01:36PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Katinka Cosette is, indeed, feminine Romantic ideal instead of a young girl. It´s fascinating idea. I hated Éponine before reading Hugo. No, she is not a particularly strong, and she is not pure, romantic heroine. She is a spoiled, bullying prat who becomes sad, suffering and selfish character. However, Hugo killed my Éponine hate.

message 50: by Amy (new) - added it

Amy I related more to Eponine, and I understood her; I loved her. But I also like Cosette. She was in love, there's no crime in that, and I don't think she can be blamed for making Eponine unhappy. She was an innocent girl in love, and I like her.

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